Bloomberg Media reported last week that the U.S. Agriculture Department has won the reversal of the order by a Federal Judge last November to destroy all sugar beet seedlings planted in the past year. According to the Bloomberg article, a three-judge Federal Appeals Court panel found that evidence presented by those filing the original complaint, including the Center for Food Safety and a number of organic seed companies, was insufficient to prove that the beet seedlings genetically engineered to withstand Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) were likely to contaminate other sugar beet plantings. The case centered around concerns about the potential contamination of organic and non-GMO seeds of sugar beet and its close relatives including swiss chard grown primarily in Oregon.
The ruling is the latest in a string of victories for GMO seed giants/chemical companies that hold patents on the genetically modified crops, and produce the chemicals they have been engineered to resist. Last month Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack decided to deregulate genetically modified alfalfa, another crop that had been held up by court action. Concern among organic and non-gmo growers, environmentalists, and a number of other organizations and individuals about the potentially negative environmental, economic, and health effects of genetically modified crops and the power of the companies that produce them is widespread and significant. Chemical companies now dominate the global seed market (see article on seed industry concentration by Phil Howard), an issue that has sparked worries about unfair competition and the future of agriculture.